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Larson v. Larson

SEPTEMBER 5, 1963.

SIDNEY F. LARSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

MYRTLE LARSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County, the Hon. ARTHUR V. ESSINGTON, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

CROW, PJ.

This is an appeal by the plaintiff, Sidney F. Larson, from a decree dismissing a suit for want of equity on a complaint for annulment of a marriage between the plaintiff and the defendant, Myrtle Larson. The complaint, so far as material, alleged that a marriage was entered into between the plaintiff and the defendant in Sycamore, Illinois, on March 21, 1950; at the time of the marriage and for some time prior thereto, the defendant was and continues to be of unsound mind, so as to be incapable of understanding a contract of marriage; and soon after the marriage the defendant was committed to Elgin State Hospital and still is a patient there. After the defendant was served with summons a guardian ad litem was appointed for her, who filed an answer demanding strict proof and defended the suit.

The plaintiff urges that the decree is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and is contrary to the law.

It is the theory of the defendant that the statute relied upon by the plaintiff, Ill Rev Stats 1953, c 89, § 2, a part of the Marriage Act, as amended, did not become effective in its amended form until January 1, 1952, and that in its amended form it has no effect on the marriage in this case between the plaintiff and the defendant since the marriage took place on March 21, 1950, and that there is no sufficient, clear, and convincing evidence that the defendant was insane at the time of the marriage.

Prior to 1951, and at the time of this marriage, March 21, 1950, Section 2 of the Marriage Act, Ill Rev Stats 1949, c 89, § 2, provided:

"No insane person or idiot shall be capable of contracting marriage."

This section was amended by an Act approved July 16, 1951, effective January 1, 1952, so as to provide, as amended, Ill Rev Stats 1951, c 89, § 2:

"No insane or mentally ill person or idiot shall be capable of contracting marriage."

The marriage here having taken place on March 21, 1950, the statute as amended in 1951, effective January 1, 1952, is not applicable. The statute as it existed prior to that amendment, Ill Rev Stats 1949, c 89, § 2, is applicable. The question, therefore, is — Was the defendant an "insane person," or legally capable of entering into the marriage relationship on March 21, 1950 under the statute and law as it then existed. There is no contention she was an "idiot."

The pertinent evidence offered by the plaintiff disclosed that the plaintiff was 48 years of age and the defendant 39 years of age on March 21, 1950, the date of the marriage. The plaintiff had known the defendant for about two years, but had known her well for only about one month before the marriage. During that period he noticed nothing abnormal about her. He knew nothing of her having any mental disability, if she had any. A few months after the marriage the defendant once in a while thought police officers were watching her, although they were not. During the following months she thought the house was wired with electricity from which she was receiving electric shocks, but the house was not so wired. In the middle of the night sometimes she thought she heard people running around on the roof and around the house, but there were no people on the roof or around the house. In the nighttime on one occasion she ran to a neighbor's house where she was not known, and the police brought her home. The plaintiff thought it was a nervous condition. She ran away a second time. She was then committed to Elgin State Hospital for treatment on July 22, 1952, by the Winnebago County Court as a mentally ill person, incapable of managing and caring for her own estate. She was there about four months. Subsequently, on March 17, 1954, the County Court of Winnebago County, on the defendant's petition, found that she had recovered from her mental illness and was capable of caring for her own estate and restored her to all her civil rights. The plaintiff said she got along good for awhile. But, on November 9, 1956, she was again committed by the County Court of Winnebago County to the Elgin State Hospital, again as a mentally ill person. During the time between the first discharge and the second commitment, March 17, 1954 and November 9, 1956, she accused the plaintiff of having women around, when he did not, and sometimes said the police were watching her. Sometimes when the plaintiff came home from work she chased him with a broom. Once she locked him out of the house. The defendant had previously been married to another party and had been divorced by him on the ground of desertion in 1942. The plaintiff lived with the defendant as husband and wife until she was committed to the Hospital in 1952, and thereafter whenever she was at intervals permitted to come home on week-ends, and again after she was restored in 1954 and until the second commitment in 1956, and again thereafter when she was at times given conditional discharges on weekends at home.

Dr. Curt Steffen, called as a witness on behalf of the plaintiff, testified that he was a physician and surgeon specializing in mental disorders. He had never personally examined or treated Mrs. Larson. She was diagnosed by some other doctor or doctors as a schizophrenic (apparently at the time of the 1952 or 1956 commitments), and, from an hypothetical question which took certain evidentiary facts into account alleged to have taken place before and after her marriage, he said all of her symptoms appeared to be schizophrenic symptoms, persecution ideas, delusions, and depressions. Such a psychosis usually starts earlier in life than 39 years of age he said. With this type of psychosis, he said, patients have so-called lucid intervals. Those intervals may last for months or even for years and then they go gack into depression or insanity. Very few schizophrenics are cured, he said. They may be discharged from a hospital but after a time they have attacks again and have to be recommitted. He said he would assume she had been mentally sick for quite a while but she might not have had such outspoken symptoms that a layman would be able to recognize such as insanity. She might be all right for two years — a layman's cure. Outspoken symptoms usually come on very gradually. During the cross-examination, the doctor was asked:

"Q. Then is it your opinion, Doctor, that a schizophrenic can never be cured?

"A. I would say — I wouldn't say never, but I would say it is a rarity if they can ever cure a ...


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